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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 4:1-2; The Must of Christian Ministry

07/28 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 The Must of Christian Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130728_1cor4_1-2.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ. 2 ὧδε λοιπὸν ζητεῖται ἐν τοῖς οἰκονόμοις ἵνα πιστός τις εὑρεθῇ. 3 ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν, ἵνα ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας· ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω· 4 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι, ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν. 5 ὥστε μὴ πρὸ καιροῦ τι κρίνετε, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος, ὃς καὶ φωτίσει τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους καὶ φανερώσει τὰς βουλὰς τῶν καρδιῶν, καὶ τότε ὁ ἔπαινος γενήσεται ἑκάστῳ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul is correcting the misunderstandings of Christian leadership in the church in Corinth. They viewed Christian leaders as figureheads to rally around. There was quarreling and division, jealousy and strife, each believer identifying himself with one Christian leader over against any other. Paul is eager to correct this misunderstanding. Only Christ was crucified in your place as your substitute, so only Christ deserves your devotion (1:13). No human leader, not Paul, not Apollos, not Cephas, has earned your allegiance. Each of them was sent to preach the gospel, to announce the message of the cross, of Jesus Christ and him crucified. We proclaim the message to everyone, but it is God’s power, God’s choosing, God’s calling that saves. God is the source of life, and we must boast only in God.

Paul has re-framed their thinking about leadership in the church. He has painted himself as a nurse-maid, faithfully feeding the infant believers what they most need to be nourished (3:1-3). He has framed himself and Apollos as fellow field hands, one planting, another watering, each fulfilling his unique role, both looking to God to give the growth (3:5-9). He has illustrated himself as a wise master-builder, having laid the one and only foundation for the church, who is Jesus Christ, and other builders continue to build upon it, and will be held accountable for the quality of their work (3:10-15). At the end of chapter 3, he told the Corinthians that they had it all backward, and they were cutting themselves off from the blessings that belong to them in Christ. The Corinthians were saying ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos’. Instead, Paul and Apollos and Cephas belong to the church, and are given by God to serve them and bless them.

Here in chapter 4, Paul tells them how they should view Christian leaders. He gives them two descriptions of Christian leadership, and one characteristic of Christian leadership, and then he confronts their critical judgmental attitudes with some corrective balance.

Servants of Christ

‘This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ’. We are not apostolic celebrities, to be waved as a banner over your competing ships. We are servants. The word here translated ‘servants’ is different than the word translated ‘servants’ back in 3:5. There, the word was diakonos [διάκονος], from which we get our word ‘deacon’. A deacon was a server or a table waiter. The word here is [ὑπηρέτης] huperetes, literally an under-rower. The word has its origin in Greek military ships, which were propelled by oarsmen who rowed from below the main deck. In the gospels we see this word used most often of guards or officers sent to carry out the orders of a superior. In John 7, the chief priests and Pharisees sent ‘huperetes’ to arrest Jesus. They returned without him, and were asked why they did not carry out their orders. They replied ‘No one ever spoke like this man!’ Jesus uses this term to describe servants who would fight to defend their king (Jn.18:36). Luke uses this word in chapter 4 referring to the synagogue attendant responsible for the care and storage of the scrolls of scripture. In Luke 1:2, he describes the eyewitnesses of Jesus as ‘huperetes’ of the word who delivered them to us. In Acts 13:5, Barnabas’ cousin John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas as an assistant or ‘huperetes’ on their missionary journey, but he later deserted them. In Acts 26:16, Jesus appointed Paul as a ‘huperetes’ and witness of him. This is how Paul says that the believers should consider their Christian leaders, not as the ones in charge on the deck shouting out orders, but as the ones down below, propelling them forward. They don’t act on their own, they are a team, working in unison. They are servants acting under authority. They are officers carrying out the orders of their superior.

Paul is very clear to specify who they report to as servants under authority. They are servants of Christ. They are under the direction of Christ. They will answer only to Jesus for how they carried out their orders. At the end of the last chapter, Paul said to the Corinthians that

1 Corinthians 3:21 …all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,

Here Paul is careful to clarify. Paul, Apollos and Cephas, apostles and Christian teachers and leaders are given to the church, they belong to the church, they are all given by God to bless the church, but they will not answer to the church. Both the church and her leaders belong to Christ and will answer to Christ. Paul warns Timothy

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Sometimes what the church needs to hear is not what the church wants to hear. There is a dangerous temptation for a church to hire someone who will tell them what they want to hear, someone who won’t challenge or confront or reprove or rebuke or exhort, someone who won’t expose the sin in their hearts and force them to deal with it. There is a deadly desire in ministers to be liked by their people. Don’t say anything that will offend or rock the boat, people won’t like you, and they might even fire you.

The first thing the church needs to understand about her ministers is that they are servants of Christ. They have one Lord and Master, and his name is Jesus. I will not answer to you for how I have served you. I will stand before Jesus and give an account of how I served you.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

The second thing the church must understand about her ministers is that they are stewards of the mysteries of God. Paul has used this word ‘mystery’ already in this letter,

1 Corinthians 2:7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

Mystery in the New Testament refers to something that had been hidden and undiscoverable, that has now been revealed and made known. Paul claims to communicate the hidden mystery wisdom of God, which he says is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2). The message of the Scriptures is that the great King will ultimately triumph over evil and reign in righteousness and justice, but that which was hidden and is now openly proclaimed is that this great King would triumph over evil by stooping to become part of his creation, taking that evil into himself and dying. Jesus, the promised Messiah, crucified in the place of the sinners he came to rescue. The cross is the hidden mystery wisdom of God.

Paul calls himself and all ministers in the church stewards of this gospel message. A steward is a servant who was entrusted with the management of household affairs. Jesus helps us understand what this steward or household manager was.

Luke 12:42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

The household manager was a servant appointed to oversee the preservation and expansion of the estate, including the care and supervision of the other servants. Paul says that is how you should view leaders in the churches. Fellow-servants entrusted with a greater burden of responsibility. This is how one should regard us, stewards or household managers of the mysteries of God. We are custodians of the gospel message. We have been entrusted with the preservation and expansion of the kingdom of God, which advances through the proclamation of the good news, good news that the King was crucified to bring the rebels home.

It is clear that even an apostle, even an angel is not at liberty to change the gospel message in any way. Paul uses the strongest possible language to make this point in Galatians 1

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

The second thing the church must understand about her ministers is that they are entrusted with the preservation of the gospel message. It is absolutely critical that we cling tenaciously to the historic gospel message once for all delivered to the saints (Jude3);

1 Corinthians 15:3 …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

We must add nothing to it, we must take nothing away from it. We are not authorized to alter it in any way. We have received it; we must hold fast to it, we must stand firm in it, we are being saved by it.

The Requirement of Faithfulness

1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

A Christian leader, an under-rower of Christ, a household manager, entrusted with the care of the gospel message, must be trustworthy. This is the one absolutely critical characteristic of Christian leadership. It says nothing about being smart or good looking or persuasive, a good communicator, with good people skills, able to make great decisions, raise money, or manage people well. Those may all be helpful, but without faithfulness, they are worthless. The one characteristic that Paul tells young pastor Timothy to look for when passing on the gospel message is faithfulness.

2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Someone entrusted to guard the gospel must be trustworthy. He must be faithful; he will do what he said he would do. You can believe him, depend on him, count on him, rely on him, trust him.

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful…

God is the ultimate standard of faithfulness. God is worthy of our trust, our belief, he will always do what he said he would do. God is faithful to himself and to his promises. Christian leaders must reflect God’s character of faithfulness.

Jesus repeatedly highlights the importance of faithfulness in those who would be entrusted with responsibility.

Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Faithfulness is a character trait that does not increase with the size of the responsibility. Many people feel that they can be irresponsible with the little things, but if only they were trusted with something really important, they would rise to the occasion. It simply doesn’t work that way. A faithful person will be faithful with a very little or with much.

Jesus goes on to say that faithfulness is knowing who your master is. In order to be found faithful, you need to know who you are being faithful to. Your allegiance must be clear. A Christian leader cannot serve both God and his people. He can serve God by serving his people well, but he must know who his true master is. When a conflict of interest comes, and it will come, it must be resolved which is the one master. As Paul says in Galatians:

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

If a minister or leader wants most of all to please his people, he will end up being unfaithful to God and harming his people. But if he has determined to be relentlessly faithful to God and his word, he may deeply hurt and offend his people as he speaks the truth in love, but as the Proverb says:

Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Every Christian, and especially Christian leaders are under-rowers, sent to carry out the orders of our superior, who is Christ. We must have no question who our master is. We are household managers, custodians of the gospel, the message of Christ crucified for sinners. As stewards of this most important of all messages, it is essential that we be found faithful. We must faithfully obey our one master, Christ, and we must faithfully cling to the one message, the message of the cross.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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July 28, 2013 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , ,

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